A dire warning: California report documents climate impacts

By Pam Strayer

California is getting hotter and drier, and extreme weather events are increasingly disrupting the state’s natural environment and the lives of the nearly 40 million people who live there, according to a study released by state officials this week.

The 664-page report, compiled from research by more than 100 state scientists and experts, concludes that the state is experiencing a rapid decline in key indicators of ecosystem health related to climate change. The report identifies dozens of significant threats that could weaken California’s status as the fifth largest economy in the world, currently valued at $3.4 trillion.

“Across the state, we live the experience of extreme weather, deepening drought. and deadly wildfires and heatwaves,” said California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) Secretary Yana Garcia. “This report shows scientifically what we know from experience.”

Among the worrisome findings is the extent to which drought is taking a hold on the state. California has been getting drier since 1895 but by the end of the 2021 water year (which began in October 2020 and ended in September 2021), drought conditions were comparable to the most severe drought period on record, according to the report.

The period from 2000 to 2021 was the driest 22-year period over the past 1,000 years for California and much of the southwestern US, what scientists refer to an emerging “megadrought” era.